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Proposed voter ID laws more strict



Date published: 1/18/2013

BY BOB LEWIS

AP Political Writer

RICHMOND

--Virginians had to produce one of several forms of identifying documents to cast a regular ballot for the first time in last November's election. Now, Republican lawmakers are trying to further limit the menu of acceptable IDs.

The first bill on the 2013 legislative treadmill is Sen. Dick Black's measure that deletes current utility bills, bank statements, government checks or paychecks as ID permissible to vote.

It cleared a GOP-dominated Senate Privileges and Elections subcommittee on a 4-2 party line vote Wednesday, bound next for the full committee also ruled by Republicans with a recommendation that they report it for a floor vote.

Black showed members of a Senate Privileges and Elections subcommittee a utility bill that he said an aide quickly falsified using common desktop publishing software to appear to belong to Gov. Bob McDonnell. The forgery was replete with the utility's color logo and watermark.

Only permanent, secure ID such as driver's licenses, student ID cards, employee badges or concealed handgun permits would become acceptable.

"If you've got some form of ID that's secure and reliable, I left it in there. If you've got something that can be faked in a heartbeat, I've carved it out," said Black, R-Loudoun.

His bill comes after an undercover operative working for a conservative activist discussed faking the names of inactive voters onto utility bills and having people cast fraudulent votes under those names with Patrick Moran, the son of U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va. The video was posted online, forcing Moran to resign as field director for his father's re-election campaign and triggering a criminal investigation in Arlington.

Black read part of the transcribed dialogue between Patrick Moran, who never overtly sanctioned fraudulent voting but appeared intrigued by the idea.

Voter identification laws passed last year over bitter objections of House and Senate Democratic minorities and were signed into law by Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell. They required those who lacked acceptable forms of ID to cast provisional ballots that are counted only if the voter can verify his identity and residency by noon the Friday after Election Day.

Virginia's voter ID law, however, was among the most forgiving in the nation because its scope of permissible identification was so broad. In addition, McDonnell directed the State Board of Elections to print new voter identification cards to every registered Virginia voter. The Justice Department ruled that the law did not violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act and approved it, and opponents' comparisons to Jim Crow-era voter suppression efforts proved overblown. President Barack Obama and Sen. Tim Kaine won convincing Democratic victories in Virginia.

Other bills similar to Black's are pending in the House and the Senate, all sponsored by Republicans. Some are even more restrictive. The strictest, by Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, would restrict ballot access to those who show photo identification.